Do you remember the previous mid-term break? Did you have people coming out of the woodwork, asking for last minute leave? I am sure this is something that every practice manager is familiar with. Having spent painstaking – and often painful – hours drafting and agreeing holiday rules, GPs and staff arrive at your office door with requests that would destroy those same rules and undoubtedly tick people off. It’s usually the folk who bothered to check the leave planner and then decided not to ask. But that is the nub of it. The rules are there for everyone, to allow fair play and you, as the manager, are there to make sure these rules are adhered to. So how to handle this?
Act now. Send an email reminding everyone of the forthcoming break, include dates of local school closures, ask for requests for leave, remind the GPs that you need to find locums so need to know asap and state the holiday rules, eg, first come, first served, do not book any holidays until leave has been approved. This should give you three advantages:
- Sending everyone the email has created a level playing field.
- The whole team has been reminded of the rules.
- Everyone has been made aware that you intend applying these rules.
Of course, someone may try to test you but if you say no to all unreasonable requests, this should not be a regular occurrence. Just be sure that the partners back your decisions!
As per your email, the earlier you know the dates you will need locums, the sooner you can advertise and, hopefully, secure cover. Many practices book locums for the next holiday period the minute they have completed his/her current stint. If you are not already doing this perhaps it is time to start (assuming you rate the locum and feel he/she is worth the hefty fee).
Do your contingency plans cover additional absences during holiday periods? Everyone has emergencies, family crisis from time to time and you would be amazed how often these happen when the practice is already down a couple of staff. While you might expect the team to pull together to cover in these circumstances, it would be good to air the topic as a discussion point rather than a current issue. Add it to the next team meeting agenda.